For more than 30 years, I have placed tons of ordinary stones and rocks to make eye-catching chimneys, walls, foundations, and entry pillars. I believe that the art of putting up a good wall, fireplace or any other stone feature is to know your stones and what is available to you in your area.
Most of the flat stones in my area of the forest are called “field stone” because many flat stones that vary in size often appeared when farmers plowed their fields. As they plow, the stones get caught in the plow, causing it to come out of the ground … this was a common problem and when gathering them together while plowing, there would be large piles of flat stones around many open fields!
These stones would average 1 “to several inches thick and a few inches to 2-3 feet. They are a very good stone for placing a” dry pile “look on a wall or fireplace. I have used these types of stone. alone and even better (I think) is to mix them into a project with heavier hand carved stone.
In western Pennsylvania, many old barns and houses were built with stone foundations, so “Barn Stone” was the name given to a large amount of hand-cut stone how to point a wall . These stones take on another appearance on their own because they have very different marks left by the stone cutter. These stones (ROCKS) are often mined from a rock curry or found next to a large stream bed. The large size of the rock in nature made it very difficult to use, so stone cutters would apply their craft to turn these large stones into a smaller, more manageable size!
Today this art is almost gone … however the remaining stones are VERY desirable due to the rarity of them and their very distinct beauty! Almost everything built with this type of stone is highly sought after, and their beauty and longevity are unmatched!
So if you are going to build a stone wall, the first step is to find out what you have available around it and “if” the building code will allow you to use it as a building material. Most of the stone work today is a “man-made” cultured stone made of concrete to look like a real stone. These stones are placed in a totally different mansion and can be much quicker and easier.
Now that you have an idea of the stone you can use, the next step is to put a footer on it. Your first stone row will be the most important row in the wall, fireplace, pillar or whatever … the first type of footer is to dig to find the soil that has never been disturbed (virgin) and dig underneath. any frost lines you may have in your area. I have to go below 36 “to be below the freezing line in my state and that’s where we’ll start!
I have unearthed dozens of old houses, barns and buildings that have stood for hundreds of years only to find NO concrete foundations … to my surprise the walls (in most cases) were still nice and straight! No problem! Now, I know the mortar was mostly just lime and sand (and most of it was gone), but the foundation wall was still standing! All they did was dig under the frost and put the biggest stones they could into the hole and start the wall. Intrigued by this test of time, I built 2 foundations in the same way and laid tons of stone (2 stories by value) with no problems or cracks years later.
Again, you will have to check with your local building code to see what they recommend for your area … but I know that most retaining walls only require a compact limestone footer below the freeze line in soil not disturbed and at least eight inches to one foot thick. As for starting the level, you better forget it! All natural stone is anything but square and level … so this art of leveling is to keep the rows “flat” and level as you go up and reach the desired height.